Donation to support high school psychology

In March 2010, Lee Gurel, PhD, donated $150,000 to the American Psychological Foundation to support the teaching of high school psychology

In March 2010, Lee Gurel, PhD, donated $150,000 to the American Psychological Foundation (APF) to support the teaching of high school psychology — continuing his remarkable generosity toward teachers that began six years ago.

In 2004, Gurel contributed to both APF and to Clark University to support the annual APA/Clark University Workshop for High School Teachers, held each summer in Worcester, MA. Gurel’s gifts for the workshop provide travel stipends, room and board, food, and other costs that allow 25 high school psychology teachers to attend the 3-day workshop each year. There is no registration fee to attend. In January 2010, Gurel added to his previous gifts by donating an additional $20,000 to APF and $20,000 to Clark to support the workshop.

Gurel’s most recent gift — which is in addition to his January contributions to the Clark workshop — will support (1) professional development of high school psychology teachers, and (2) the revision of the TOPSS unit lesson plans. Funding toward professional development will support activities such as travel support for teachers to attend the APA Convention or other teaching or psychology conferences or support for local networks of high school teachers. Funding toward the unit lesson plans will be allocated over five years, from 2011 to 2016, and will allow APA to revise TOPSS unit lesson plans developed originally in the 1990s. The APA Education Directorate will determine how the funding will be spent and directed each year, upon approval from the APF Board of Trustees. Information on the professional development funds will be provided in PTN, through the TOPSS email list and on the TOPSS website next year.

“What’s exceptional about Dr. Gurel’s philosophy of teaching and learning is that he recognizes that the best way to do what’s right for students is to take care of their teachers,” says TOPSS Chair Katherine Minter of Westwood High School (Austin, TX). “These generous gifts will allow teachers to come together not only to learn and grow, but to build relationships and network channels with other teachers across the country. Opportunities like these bring both personal and professional satisfaction, and this, in turn, supports teachers to greater goals and job satisfaction. Their students will reap these benefits for years to come.”

In recognition of these remarkable gifts, the TOPSS Committee decided to name one of their annual APA Convention sessions after Gurel. Kenneth D. Keith, PhD, of the University of San Diego, delivered the first Lee Gurel Lecture at the 2010 APA Convention in San Diego, “The Last Word: What Should Students Take Away From Our Classes?” The annual lecture will highlight a session that promotes excellence in teaching.

Gurel is a longtime APA member and Clark University alumnus; he received his BA from Clark University and his doctorate from Purdue University. In addition to his support for psychology teachers, he has also supported a library resource center at APA (through APF) and two annual awards at Clark: one given to an outstanding graduating student in Asian Studies and one to honor an outstanding graduating senior in psychology and the student’s faculty mentor.

“I am sometimes asked why I choose to contribute to Education with a capital E. My answer starts with a denial that I am contributing or donating the way one might to a favorite charity. Rather, I am repaying a debt, a real debt — in fact, an incalculable debt. I did not know it at the time, but I know now how very much I owe to the many schools and school teachers that have enriched my life. Whatever the shortcomings of some of them, I owe them, as today’s students would say, I owe them “big time.” I suspect there’s probably not an adult among us who isn’t similarly indebted “big time.” Unfortunately, I was well beyond high school when the realization I share here began to dawn on me. It was too late then to thank most of those wonderful teachers. The least I can do now is to thank their successors for the work they do and to offer them a “thank you” via a little extra support.”

– Lee Gurel, PhD

Reprinted from Spring 2010 Psychology Teacher Network